Before we begin, I want to remind you that I am not a medical professional, and in no way am offering a diagnosis or treatment plan for you or your child. This post centers on sensory assistive tools that have been helpful for us and steps we’ve taken to save money on these items. All products used were purchased with my own money, although there are some affiliate links to National Autism Resources. If you choose to use any of those links to make a purchase, the funds generated help keep this blog up and running. Thank you!

It’s 2019. It’s a great time for assistive gear

Simple products that were difficult to access even 5 years ago have become so mainstream now, that you can easily find common fidgets, weighted blankets, and sensory friendly clothing at your local Target. Make a search for “Autism Sensory Toys” on Amazon and you’ll find a plethora of  medical grade sensory assistive tech and devices that previously you would have needed access to a medical supply in order to access these products for yourself or your child. (See my post on my favorite sensory modifying children’s noise dampening headphones here.)

What happens when you’re beyond the weighted blankets though? Depending on your child’s sensory needs (whether they are hypo or hyper sensitive to a multitude of senses), you may have had compression-wear come up in conversation via a Facebook group, pediatrician, fellow parent, or a self advocate! Compression-wear can be very expensive, and depending on the level of pressure needed, it can require multiple trials of different brands and styles in order to get the best result. 

Today, I’d like to talk you through how we ended up trying compressionwear, where to purchase, what brands/styles work best for us, and how we save on our gear. 

Why use compression gear?

The effects of compression (or deep pressure wear) can be likened to the effects of a weighted blanket. It can give a deep pressure stimulation that can cause a calming effect. Now depending on your own child’s communication skills, they may or not be able to tell you that deep pressure feels good. For us, our toddler wasn’t able to relay to us verbally what she needed sensory wise, it came through a lot of observation, and troubleshooting with our Occupational Therapist. Let me explain some behaviors we noticed with our child that hinted that deep pressure could be calming:

  • Sensory seeking pressure through throwing body into couches, beds, floors, looking for a hard surface to give feedback on back/sides/stomach. 
  • Piling up toys/pillows/blankets/cushioned on body to relax.
  • Rolling on floor in order to soothe over-stimulation caused by transitions throughout the day.
  • Layering her own clothes 3-4 layers thick in order to be “comfortable”.

Through these behaviors, we decided to try using a weighted blanket during the day (especially during transition times like waking up from nap, before getting dressed, in the car, etc.) and while it was helpful, it was bulky and she didn’t like that confined her. 

We spoke to our Occupational Therapist and she had her try a couple Torso Deep Pressure Suits. Two brands in particular. One by Spio, and the other by Benik. 

These vests can look intense at first sight, and yes they are more pressure than a typical compression tee, but when you want more pressure that can be concealed under clothing, these are amazing for what they are designed to do. The first time we had our daughter try one on, it was like her head cleared. She was able to quiet down the excess input and have clarity to focus on the activities she wanted to do.

Now, at this point I feel it’s really, truly necessary to clear something up if it hasn’t be clear on my blog or if you are new joining us today. Our family does not utilize sensory tools in order to quiet down “autistic behaviors” or to make her appear more neurotypical, nor to make her “blend” into society. We embrace and celebrate neurodiversity and all the unique skills she possesses because of her neurodiversity. We utilize sensory tools for her to use for self-regulation when she is unable to modify the environment she is in and to make her day more comfortable for herself. Now that we are clear on that, let’s continue. ​​

Truthfully, a vest is way out of our family’s budget. At a price rate of  $170-230 just for one suit (of these two brands shown), unless you’re sitting on a significant HSA account, for most families they are out of budget. So, let’s talk about other options for deep pressure. 

There are options

*Please note: Our Blue 3/4 Sleeve Shirt is no longer in production.

​Of course, those shirts when purchased directly from distributor sites can throw you back roughly $140 a piece (A huge savings from a full body vest, but let’s not kid ourselves it’s still dang expensive if you’re on a budget for therapies), but there are some options to save on these items.

Options for saving on deep pressure gear

One option is to look into if you have a Health Savings Account or similar program with your insurance to make the purchase using before-tax dollars. First, examine your insurance policy as to if it will cover compression wear and if necessary ask your insurance if a prescription is necessary. Many insurance plans will cover compression gear if it is a medical necessity after you’ve hit your yearly deductible (sometimes even before then). It never hurts to know your insurance policy. 

Another option is to use programs like the insurance program to purchase these items under insurance. While their website in particular does not do medical billing, they have a list of resources to go through in order to privately bill your insurance for the purchase if SPIO gear. This is most likely the option we will be considering in the future. You can find a link that that program here.

An option you may not have thought of is to watch for the gear second hand whether it’s online in your area via OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace, or online via Ebay or Mercari style apps. I found both of our pieces of SPIO brand gear second hand via Ebay. The major downside to this route is you must be patient and be very accurate in measuring for each piece of gear. The good news is that all the brands mentioned have very clear measurement instructions on their webpages and it’s easy to do at home given that you own a soft measuring tape. 

Also, talk to your developmental pediatrician about if they have any ideas on how to access deep pressure wear for your child. Sometimes they may be aware of local programs, or ways to purchase through insurance.

How to know if compression wear may be beneficial for you or your child

What I would suggest first is if your child is in Occupational Therapy, to talk to your therapist about compression and ask if they have any models for you to try on in session. If they do, try a few styles and go from there. If they don’t there are some lower cost options to get into compression wear to see if it could be a good fit for your family. 

Pressure Vest for Kids and Adults via National Autism Resources

One of the first options, is to purchase a pressure vest. It’s solely a vest made out of a 2mm neoprene (much like a wet suit) that gives general pressure over the majority of the torso. It can go over or under clothing, and is trim fitting. The largest benefit is this item will cost you roughly $30-70 an item depending on size. If you’re interested in viewing this item, click the affiliate picture link, or click here.

Weighted Pressure Vest via National Autism Resources

If you’re looking for more than just pressure, and instead want a weighted option, this is a fantastic adjustable option that will cost you about $55-100 per vest. While it’s still an investment, the customization fit and weight makes it a real stand out for wading into the pool of pressure wear. You can either click on the affiliate picture link, or here.

Fun and Function’s Short Sleeve Hip Hugging Tee

Let’s say you just want to see if your kid will even wear a compression tee. This is a great starter. You can find them for about $20 a piece. They are an Organic cotton/spandex blend which means they will stretch out over the course of a day unlike the two vests linked above them. So, depending on how often you do laundry, you may need 4-5 for one a day until wash day. Also, if your child prefers a pressure tee at night, you will need additional tees so there is adequate compression at bedtime. However, many kids love these for wearing just during school/daycare hours, or for when they’re feeling especially dysregulated. They also should give you a window into how they feel with the added compression added into their sensory diet. You can find them, here.

Follow your gut, trust your team.

At the end of the day, compression wear can be a wonderful tool in your child (or your) sensory diet to help regulate sensory input throughout the day. Feel it out, if it seems like it may be helpful to your family, I hope some of these tips were useful. Let me know down in the comments if you currently utilize compression wear in your home and if it’s made any impact on your day.